For an artist known for his architectural portraits of West Chester, Jon Redmond has spent surprisingly few years exhibiting on his home turf. That may be partly due to the fact that Redmond began selling his work while still in art school and was able to bypass the usual struggling artist venues and reach for major galleries. Those included the Somerville Manning Gallery, an artistic center for Brandywine Valley art that is housed in a historic mill near Wilmington.
The opening reception of Redmond’s solo show at Somerville Manning was predictably packed with art collectors and admirers. Many have followed Redmond’s career since he first began having solo shows at the gallery in the early 1990s. That reminds me – the term “art school” needs clarification.
There was a demand for his work when he began painting the local landscape – he grew up in the scenic area of Lucky Hill along the Brandywine – while studying in the city, at America’s oldest art school, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Redmond graduated with honors there in 1992.
So what makes Redmond stand out as an artist? For West Chester fans, it might seem to be his ability to portray the borough in what one New York Times critic called a “slightly blurred, Hoppersque reverie.”
Translated, that means that Redmond can simplify the borough vernacular architecture in ways that remind one of Edward Hopper’s famous subdued paintings of New York diners and tenements .
The “blurred,” or impressionistic style is the result of Redmond’s mastery of on-site painting – not just painting outdoors but working quickly, in what is known as alla prima style and completing a work in one sitting.
Of course, it’s not merely technical skills that matter. Redmond’s solo shows typically draw crowds looking for his latest subjects. My list of top favorites are Redmond’s stables and barns; his sidewalk views of West Chester and his distant views of pastures and Brandywine river banks.
If you know West Chester well, it’s especially easy to appreciate Redmond’s ability to simplify – a task once described as the ability to eliminate the unnecessary. Notice in the images shown here that one painting of a stable is full of light, angled shadows and patches of color – not horses and straw.
Visit Somerville Manning to see Redmond’s recent preoccupation: working with a model. The nudes here should tap into your art history reserves, causing you (a good thing) to free associate with what Sadie Sommerville calls the “elegant woman-in-the-bath” tradition of such figurative painters as Degas.
Jon Redmond’s Solo Show at the Somerville Manning Gallery thru October 8th
• Gallery hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
• Where: Somerville-Manning Gallery is located in Breck's Mill adjacent to the Hagley Museum in Greenville, Del. The street address is 101 Stone Block Road, Greenville, DE 19807.
• Features: Free and open to the public. Jon Redmond’s show ends Saturday, Oct. 8th.
Phone: (302) 652-0271
• Price: Free